An Eastern North Carolina organization is now part of a pilot program that aims to fight addiction.
“If everyone works together, we can put a dent in this problem,” said Kelli Knapp, the board chairman for CCSAP, the Coastal Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention, which covers Onslow, Carteret, Craven, Jones and Pamlico counties.
On Wednesday, Knapp was in D.C. where she signed an agreement with CADCA, or Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, for CCSAP to become one of 20 coalitions in the nation to be part of Medically Assisted Treatment program, which works to educate physicians and the public on addiction and helps physicians link people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol with therapists for a combined medical and therapy treatment, Knapp said.
“It’s hard to battle an addiction by yourself,” she said.
Knapp, who made a career of helping people overcome addiction as a therapist and certified substance abuse prevention consultant, said she can count on one hand the number of addicts who have overcome their addiction alone.
“(Addicts) don’t have the tools they need and the support they need to stay sober,” she said. “At some point, someone has to step up and say, ‘What can I do to help this problem?’”
Knapp believes the MAT program can help.
CCSAP will be given $2,000 to start, with more potentially down the line depending on how well the program does locally, she said. They will also be provided with educational materials for physicians and addicts. The prevention programs are extremely under-served, Knapp said, but are important to attack problems before they begin.
Knapp said Onslow County’s opiod problem is now being filtered into the neighboring counties that CCSAP helps, like Jones, Pamlico, and Craven.
The MAT program will help educate physicians and doctors on why they need to provide medical assistance.
For example, Knapp said doctors prescribe a drug, like methadone, to help someone stop using street drugs. Instead of handing them a new drug and sending them on their way, the MAT program helps doctors learn how to make a plan with their patients and set them up with therapy.
“I think it needs to be a collaborative effort,” she said.
While group therapies are available, someone suffering from an additional illness, like anxiety, may not be suited for a group setting, Knapp said.
Programs like Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous are great for maintenance, Knapp said, but they’re not treatment programs and don’t work as such.
The overdose-reversing drug Narcan is an additional aspect of addiction that, while life-saving, doesn’t help provide a solution, she said. In fact, Knapp said it can actually cause harm.
Some addicts use Narcan as a security blanket and use greater and greater amounts of drugs, putting their trust and faith in Narcan, Knapp said. Some of her clients have used it four-to-five times and are still using drugs like heroin.
“Who is following up with people who are using this and saying, ‘OK, are you ready to go to treatment now?’” Knapp asked. “Where’s the second part? Where’s the treatment aspect?”
Knapp hopes MAT can help, and to those who believe addiction doesn’t affect them, Knapp said to think again.
“There’s a lot of professional users,” she said.
It’s not always a direct family member, Knapp continued. It could be a coworker who calls out sick due to withdrawal or drinking in excess and you have to pick up their work. It’s someone who goes into an open house and steals narcotics from the medicine cabinets. It’s someone who breaks into your home while you’re on vacation and steals high-end items to sell for drug money.
The highest committed crime in Onslow County is larceny, and 80 percent of those committing the crimes are addicts, said Onslow County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Chris Thomas.
“It seems to be the driving factor in most of those cases,” he said. “Most of the breaking and enterings and larcenies are driven by drugs.”
Helping in one aspect will aid the other, and Knapp believes the MAT program will help reduce the high number of addicts and users in Onslow County.
“It’s not a quick fix,” Knapp said.